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All schools to be allowed to set school term dates

Ken Clarke and Oliver Letwin wrote earlier about the Deregulation Bill. It has a lot of small measures but cumulatively is an important piece of legislation. A thousand and one ways to get the state out of the way and to allow more independent decision making. One example is that local authorities would no longer be able to tell the remaining maintained schools when the school terms must begin and end.

At the moment Section 32 of the Education Act 2002 requires the local authority to set term dates for local authority maintained schools. This blocks head teachers and governors of these schools from making changes to their term dates that would suit pupils and parents.

It's not a huge point. All maintained schools will still be required to be open for a minimum of 190 days a year. However it is a freedom that academies have taken advantage of. For example David Young Community Academy in Leeds operates a seven-term year which starts in June. The basic pattern is a maximum of six weeks at school followed by a maximum of four weeks’ holiday. Ros McMullen their principal believes short terms and short holidays work better.

The Boulevard Academy, in Hull, is to introduce Saturday teaching. Pupils will be required to attend one Saturday every month - as well as shorter holidays and longer school days. Principal Andy Grace said it would mean his pupils will get up to 110 extra teaching hours each year.

Haberdashers' Federation of Academies have extended the school day but put a two-week break in the autumn term as they feel it is rather long.

Innovation of this sort is welcome. Little by little we are defeating the tyranny of sameness.


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